Question: I am hiring extra help for the holiday season for the first time. Is there anything I need to be aware of?
Answer: Probably the most important thing to remember is that in California, most employment laws apply to all employees, even those hired on a temporary or seasonal basis. Here are some compliance tips to keep in mind:
• Train seasonal employees on your company’s harassment and discrimination prevention policies. These policies apply to seasonal workers, and although harassment prevention training is not mandated for smaller employers until 2020, to promote a workplace free of harassment it is important to provide training and a thorough review of these policies to all new hires.
• Provide workers with advance notice of their schedules. Several retailers, including Abercrombie & Fitch and Victoria’s Secret, have settled class actions involving “call-in scheduling.” This method of scheduling requires employees to call into the business an hour before a shift to see if they should report to work, and sometimes they are told not to come to work. The workers in these cases argued that the phone call counted as reporting to work, and that they were entitled to reporting time pay under California law. Reporting time pay guarantees workers a minimum amount of wages each day they report to work.
• Provide paid sick leave to eligible employees. All employees, including seasonal employees, who have worked in California for the same employer for 30 or more days within a year from when the employee starts work, are eligible for paid sick leave. Employees are not entitled to take sick leave until they have been employed with you for 90 days. If your seasonal employees are hired for less than 90 days, they will accrue or be granted 24 hours of paid sick leave depending on the compliance method you choose, but they will not be entitled to take that sick leave during their employment. If an employee is rehired within one year from their date of separation, previously accrued and unused paid sick leave must be reinstated.
• Reasonably accommodate individuals’ religious beliefs. Although you may be hiring to cover business needs on designated holidays, employers are prohibited from refusing to hire someone because he or she may need a reasonable accommodation, such as a schedule change, to attend religious services, unless the accommodation would cause an undue hardship on the business. An “undue hardship” is a difficult legal standard for an employer to meet, and litigation is possible if someone isn’t hired because that person can’t work on a particular day.
• Make sure non-exempt employees keep accurate time records. This is especially important during the holidays, when non-exempt employees often work more overtime. All non-exempt employees must accurately record the time they start and end their shift, and the time they start and end their meal period. Make sure non-exempt employees do not perform any work off the clock, and that they take all off duty meal and rest periods required by law.
• Comply with final pay requirements. In California, all wages and accrued but unused vacation, if any, must be paid on the employee’s last day if the employee is discharged or the employee’s end date is agreed upon in advance, and within 72 hours if the employee quits.
Enjoy the holidays, and be sure to comply with all laws that apply to your seasonal workers.